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William J. Purvis

Purvis and Wilson with their two-story aircraft

Co-inventor of early patented rotary winged aircraft (helicopter)

Many experimented with flight in the years immediately following the Wright brothers' triumph and Kansas was not unique in its production of strange looking aircraft. A number of unique planes were built in small towns and if one of these products had been successful, Goodland might have rivaled Wichita as the "air capital of the world."

William J. Purvis and Charles A. Wilson of Goodland were inventors who came up with a two-story vehicle designed to take off and land vertically. The center shaft was to be 20 feet tall and made from cast iron. They filed an application for a patent in March 1910.

They formed the Goodland Aviation Company, sold stock, and had good publicity but they did not achieve flight. They did build a model that flew; the full-sized product was supposed to "rise, remain stationary, descend, be propelled and guided" but it only remained stationary.

Reportedly, Purvis and Wilson had abandoned their project and returned to their previous jobs by the time the patent was issued in 1912.  While the project was unsuccessful, its concepts were revolutionary and the first to be patented in the United States.  Further development of their ideas in the 1930s led to the building of successful helicopters.

Entry: Purvis, William J.

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: July 2010

Date Modified: August 2019

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.